Friday, March 18, 2011

Go Cry to Momma

There's a fracas going on at the PTA Listserv, and it's almost as good as the one that followed the Human Sexuality Incident at a local college. (Consenting Adults learning Conssenting Adult things at a Private University apparently warrants the torches and pitchforks from PTA Busybodies at a Public Elementary School. Who knew?)

Anyway, the school apparently has scheduled a "Fun Day" of sorts where the kids can turn in their Paper "You did good" Tickets to participate. The Tickets get issued throughout the year for all sorts of things; Stitch has gotten them for everything from holding the door open and being polite on the playground to finishing his lunch. I like the Ticket System. It's tangible, immediate, and turning them in for prizes is a bonus incentive for the kids. (I do the same thing with The Ten Star Rewards Program.)

This system is not good enough for the PTA Busybodies. The latest quarrel involves such gems as "prizes is teaching them that the reason to be good is to win a prize" and "We can call it a 'reflection time' but what it is is a punishment as these children are separated and deprived of a fun activity because they didn't behave 'up to par' over a long period of time." Well, yeah. That's the point. It's a punishment. That's what happens when you run afoul of the law. (The "reflection time" is the room where kids go when they can't attend the Fun Day for lack of Tickets.) "If my child wasn't able to participate, I know he would be heart-broken and I would feel horribly for him too." But if Kid knows from day one about the Ticket System, and that he needs a set amount of tickets to participate, and he blows it off, whose fault is that? Again, this is the whole point. Avoiding "hurt feelings" isn't.

There's a lot of chatter over kids not getting their feelings hurt. When I was speaking to another parent in the stands about low-level skating competitions, I had the Dad roll his eyes and say, "Is this one of those things where everyone wins?"

Sort of. Basic Skills and ISI breaks up the flights to no more than five, so that yes, everyone gets a prize. But typically only 1, 2 and 3 get trophies. Fourth and fifth get ribbons or medals. (Depends on who is running the competition. ISI Tot Levels, every kid does get first. They're three, cut them some slack.) Having said that, don't think the kids don't know. At one of Stitch's comps, the only difference between the trophies was the number. Other than that, they were identical in size, shape and color. But you had better believe the kid that placed third knew it, and his dad wasn't the one telling him. A girl of at least 12 broke down in tears when she missed out on a trophy, sobbing on her mom's shoulder. Everyone wins? Hardly.

Another parent chimes in with "I'd like to see this fun Friday event be for everyone, regardless of their behavior, especially after *big standardized test.*"

In my opinion, this underestimates kids. They know. They know who's been good and bad. Having a system of rewards and punishment establishes the pecking order and absolutely makes most kids want to do better. (For the kids that it doesn't work on, then they probably have other issues that School can't really help them with. I can't forget the kid that verbally assaulted Stitch and I was admonished to "forget it," as he had "home issues." Screw that, let me at him!)

"It also seems to me that this system creates competition among students which seems stressful."

If anyone thinks that kids don't compete informally among themselves, they're delusional. How many times did I watch Other Kid walk up to Stitch and say, "What level are yeeeeew in?" And even though this kid was skating only her prescribed half hour lesson, while Stitch was busting his tail (literally), she got the higher ground. Now that the tables are turned, Other Kid is acting snottier than ever, which I didn't think possible. To his credit, Stitch is being graceful about it, which I'm exceptionally proud of. But he knows. And he knows that this latest trophy has a "2" on it. He wants a "1."

Rewards and Punishment, Winning and Losing aren't about Hurt Feelings from Poor Sweet Muffy. It's about motivating them to do better. I promise you, those kids who are damned to the "Reflecting Room" (which will not be waist deep in crap as some of these women are thinking) will be considering how to get into that little party next time. But really, given the liberal way these Tickets seem to be dispensed, I can't imagine what kind of degenerate won't get in.

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